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PEACEWORKS

PEACE CORPS MOROCCO’S LITERARY MAGAZINE

SPRING ‘16


Cover photos: (top) Matt Grady (bottom) Neville Sadhoo

Goats taking a lunch break in an Argan tree. Photo by Neville Sadhoo

THE STAFF Executive Editor: Jane Bruyere Production Manager: Ryan McFarlin Essay Editors: Adelia Gray & Matt Hendrick Creative Writing Editors: Adelia Gray & Alexander Levin-Epstein Photo Editor: Ben Zapchenk

PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16


Letter from the Editors Hello all, Welcome to the first PeaceWorks issue of 2016. At last, spring is on the horizon. As we cheerfully wave goodbye to the winter blues (and our radiators), we lament another impending goodbye: the departure of our dear friends in Staj 96. Over the past year, you have been our mentors, our comrades, and most importantly, our inspiration. You will be missed. For those who remain here in Morocco, let us savor the year that lies ahead. What an array of stories we have this time around. First, we get inside the head of Kabir Moss, a soon-to-be third year volunteer, as he reflects on the meaning of his name. Ben Zapchenk paints an intimate portrait of a local artist who also happens to be his host father. Brandi Jordan and Emma Goldbas round out our Waxing Poetic section, and Justin Bibee presents his vision of a reformed Peace Corps Act with human rights provisions. We hope you enjoy reading this issue, and as always, if something inspires you, we warmly welcome submissions from the volunteer community. Regards, The PeaceWorks Editorial Team

“Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really... How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” - Paul Bowles, “The Sheltering Sky”

Have something to submit to PeaceWorks? Email your writing, pictures, art, ideas, recipes, and more to peaceworks.morocco@gmail.com

Painting by Jennifer Williams

PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16


By Kabir Moss

Kif kif. Kabir. It’s the same. Kabir. But that’s a Moroccan name. I know, but it’s the same. Are you Muslim? Um, not yet. (Because it’s nicer to say than the other.)

Shnu smitik mn America? What’s your American name?

I try to own it, as though it is mine entirely. I speak knowingly, as though I understand anything at all. I stride with confidence, as though I have earned any of it. Individuality is complex and therefore challenging to understand within yourself much less to define aloud. Where I fit, what I bring, why I wake, and all the other questions stemming from the timeless, answerless question, who am I? An honest, though incomplete answer is I am, like we all are, many different things at once. A son, a graduate, a friend, a husband, an American, a teammate, a wannabe be writer. But what is hard to reconcile with is that to more people than not, I am Kabir. When it comes to who I am and what others know about me, above all else, it is my name. I have spoken more, more often and with the most variety of people, about my name than any other single subject. This is not just the case today but will be the reality every day to come.

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PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16


In the U.S. the questions are anything from “What’s your first name?” and “Is it a family name?” to “What does it mean?” “What language is that?” and “Why?” If we met through email first odds are your reaction would be similar to my college coach (then also transferring from Africa University) “Huh, I thought you were gonna be a brotha.” No doubt there, like here, it isn’t the name itself but the contrast of the name and the face. Coming to Morocco I said repeatedly, “I can’t wait for my name to finally belong,” but of course it is not the culture or location the name must fit but the person and clearly for most of my appearance this isn’t the case. Although for those that know a little Arabic, I am bigger than I am small. I am not under the impression, as my mother may be, that this name found me. However, I am under the impression that this name has been a large part of who I have become. Again, not for reasons unknown, but for the reasons above. This name is the keeper, that which precedes all other social intercourse, and in this respect, how could it not? Apart from the first few cross-dressing years, I have spent most of my life fitting in. Looking and doing very run of the mill things, in very much contrast to a quite eccentric family. Where people spend years exploring and creating (consciously or subconsciously) a unique and genuine identity I was, in a sense, given one. An individuality neither earned nor stolen and therefore leaving me both estranged from, and possessive of, it. In some ways this has made me lazy, falsely confident in my idiosyncrasy, expecting that other gifts and talents should be prodigal in nature rather than resulting of struggle and discipline. In other ways, however, this has made me that much more confused. Blurring the lines even further between nurture and nature and creator. Creator, of course, not being that of the all knowing respects but that of the active participant within that chooses.

Inevitably, at some point in this conversation, they smile, and I smile. Sometimes they laugh and then I laugh. Not because it is foolish but because it is unexpected. Then, odds are, a hand gesture follows referencing my height and acknowledging somehow, in some way, that even with pale skin, hair, eyes and English the name sort of fits. How much weight does a name hold? None. All. Some. Most. Running, as my mind is now, through the rhetorical abyss I wonder if these questions are worth asking?

These questions, of course, have no answer and therefore this muddling in thought today has no conclusion. Do I wish my parents gave me another name? Not a day of my life, because the truth is, I don’t know what I would be without it.

PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16

This Moroccan Life

Would I be tall if my name was Jack? Would I be better with confrontation if my name was Henry? Would I want to write if my name was Steven? At the beginning of a semester, as I gave a teacher a slip asking to transfer out of his class he said to me, “I admit, I hope you would stay in my class, though only because of your name.” Am I convinced I could have lived up to his expectations, no, but neither am I sure I wouldn’t.

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Waxing Poetic

By Brandi Jordan

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Photo by Matt Grady

PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16


May I kiss your hands, if even just the tips, for they are the holiest things I can hold in my own. God made manifest in their lines and the fierce way they fold. The day you were born many years ago, your mother clutched the edge of the bed where she sat; her nails dug into the rigid wood and into the hand of the sister crouched alongside her. She labored you into life-pulled you from her womb-and cradled you to her chest.

Holy, holy are our hands.

You awoke every every few hours those first weeks, wracked with pain from colic. Her hands changed diapers-patted backs-soothedcoddled-and conjured healing remedies.

Your now straight fingers grew long and slender as you did. They graced pens, keys, and eventually hearts. They stretched out gracefully as you danced, loosely held the reins of your horse, and clutched the shoulders of your lover as you embraced that first night.

Holy, holy are our hands.

Holy, holy are our hands.

Her nimble and knowledgable hands deftly planted-toiled-harvested-cutcooked and crafted meals for you, causing your own hands to grow strong and true.

Your adult hands now strong-softsure, try desperately to mimic the near magic motions of the mom who went before you. Roles reversed; you labored, cradled, patted, soothed, coddled, conjured, toiled, cut, cooked, frenzied, comforted, straightened, prepared, prayed, and finally put her now still hands at last to rest.

Holy, holy are our hands.

Holy, holy are our hands. Your own little hands showed you the world from the tops of trees; the thorns in your palms didn’t slow you down. You climbed higher and higher until the day you fell to the ground. Oh how her hands became frenzied then. They comforted you-carried you-straightened your crooked finger-then raised her own in prayer over you.

Holy, holy are our hands. So may I kiss your hands, if even just the tips and may their legacy of love leave an imprint upon my lips.

PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16

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By Ben Zapchenk

In the heart of Agdz in Southern Morocco, one of the first stops for many a traveler on their journey to the Sahara Desert lies a bustling street, filled with storefronts and garages plying a plethora of artisanal trades. Amongst the daily cacophony of industry, there is a small shop adorned with emblems of Moroccan, Israeli, American, British, and Amazigh culture. This artistic fusion of cultures and ideals is the daily home to one Mohamed Beraouz, a proud son of the Draa Valley whose family has resided in this region for over 600 years. With ancestral ties to the people of Morocco, the United Kingdom, and Israel, he is a unique individual committed to spreading peace, understanding, and community amongst people of all nations. Through his daily work as a welder and in his free time as an artist, Mohamed never misses an opportunity to espouse these ideals to community members and foreign nationals alike. With over 20 years of experience as a welder in the cities of Casablanca, Agadir, and Agdz, Mohamed has the technical ability and practical knowledge to repair, fabricate, and work with any type of metal. From repairing bicycles, farming equipment, and tractor-trailers to building lampposts, doors, and railings, he is a skilled artisan with the capacity to undertake almost any type of project.

This Moroccan Life

In his free time, Mohamed likes to build and paint metal pieces of art that represent the values and cultures he holds dear. Most of these pieces incorporate elements of Moroccan, Amazigh, Israeli, American, and British culture in a way that artistically blends and merges these cultures into a cohesive whole. Each piece has its own idiosyncrasies and character that individually professes profound and distinct messages. He diligently displays these pieces in and around his shop in Agdz.

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As a respected member of the community with long-established roots in the area, Mohamed’s shop acts as both a place of business and a meeting grounds for people from all walks of life. In between work and during days of respite, the shop is a thriving hotbed of conversation and community over endless pots of tea. It is a place of catching up with old friends and making new ones. It is a place for cultural exchange and language acquisition. It is a place that fosters open minded discussions and the spread of ideas of all flavors. All are welcome here. ​

Artist Website: www.beraouz.weebly.com PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16


Photos by Brandi Jordan

PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16

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Tonight’s soccer was street soccer. We walked for close to an hour outside the bustle of Azilal’s city center to the countryside. Dimmed streetlights were our source of light. The coach played with me and a few of the girls from the team, and then with a whole group of young boys. The other boys who came to watch were preoccupied trying to catch fireflies and grasshoppers. It reminded me of playing wiffle ball when I was a kid, having to fetch the ball and run to the sidewalks every time a car passed. Everyone wondered who the blonde girl was, and gentle chuckles and “ooohs and ahhhs” never ceased when I got the ball, made a nice play, or worse, made a bad play. To them, after a while, I was just another girl from Azilal who had some rusty soccer skills and a funny accent when she spoke Darija. In so many ways I thought about how simple life can be. In fact, how much happier people seem to be when life is simplified. Unfortunately, for many people here in my tiny corner of the world, they don’t have a choice in whether or not they have ready access to the internet—to social media or media at all—to what I would deem a simpler way of living. Without the ability to travel or to enjoy so many of the things I have so often taken for granted, everyone still seemed so utterly free. Blessed. Happy to be alive. Nobody spoke a lick of English, some not even Arabic. One of the kids keeping score yelled to me, “five to five,” and laughed so hard at himself that he knew two words in English that he nearly fell into the swath of bushes behind him. Perhaps it was the afterglow of the setting sun, the commune of family and friends for the holy month of Ramadan, or even that a seemingly random American girl was playing midnight soccer with Moroccan kids—whatever it was, I walked home in bliss. I looked up at the nearly full moon above me, chuckled subtly under my breath before going inside my apartment, tapping my heels like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz thinking, “Wow, there really is no place like home.”

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PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16


Midnight Soccer By Emma Goldbas

Waxing Poetic PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16

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Photo by Neville Sadhoo

Opening ceremony of Dar Chebab in Outat el Hajj. Photos by Matt Grady

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PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16


Photo by Matt Grady

Chefchouen Streets photo by Elaine Moran

PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16

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Photo by Neville Sadhoo

Keeping that sugar safe. Photo by Rosana Zarza-Canova

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PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16

Our cat Mashi Mouskil by Jennifer Williams


Walili ruins near Meknes. Photo by Matt Grady

Wooden scrub boards are carved by men and used by women to scrub the laundry. The diamond shape is used in Amazigh (or Berber) Art. Painting and photo by Jennifer Williams

Little girl from Belsfrat, a douar outside Outat. Her name is Marwa. Photo by Matt Grady

PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16

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We Must Adapt and Adopt: Reforming the Peace Corps Act By Justin Bibee

W

hat is the Peace Corps’ role in international affairs? What are the Peace Corps’ responsibilities and how do we exercise those responsibilities? These are questions I often asked myself as I entered my second year of service. I took an oath as a volunteer in early 2014 with a deep personal conviction that I would put the individual at the heart of everything I did for the U.S. Peace Corps. In my first year of service, I was privileged to work with an extraordinarily committed and talented group of development experts and humanitarians. However, no one seemed to match my passion for human rights. As a volunteer I seek to catalyze action across a wide range of issues–from the fight against HIV/AIDS to quality education and environmental sustainability to harassment and poverty. More than anything, I dedicate my efforts to advancing human rights. I want to bring Peace Corps closer to the people we serve, to match our unique presence as the preeminent international service organization of the United States with the credibility of seeing that rights are fulfilled, suffering alleviated and opportunities presented. Within the Peace Corps community we often talk about the Peace Corps’ three goals, which can be paraphrased as: help others help themselves, help others understand U.S. citizens, and help U.S. citizens understand others. However, there is little talk about the Peace Corps’ mission, to promote world peace and friendship, established in the Peace Corps Act of 1961. The champion way to promote world peace is to promote the advancement of human rights. Human rights guarantee people the means to satisfy their basic needs, such as food, shelter and education, so people can take full advantage of all opportunities. In my first year of service, I saw the sheer appetite for the fulfillment of human rights. The year 2014 could well have been a year of change for both Peace Corps and the countries we serve. Aspirations for genuine peace and individual rights will be realized through the transitional process of incorporating human rights into the heart of our strategies for development.

I am leading a much-needed effort to reform the U.S. Peace Corps Act by adopting strong human rights provisions through the incorporation of a Human Rights Committee.

I am leading a much-needed effort to reform the U.S. Peace Corps Act by adopting strong human rights provisions through the incorporation of a Human Rights Committee. With the establishment of a Human Rights Committee, we will empower people to be aware of human rights issues, to be concerned by the issues and to be capable of standing up for the issues. We will not only teach people what rights they have, but we will also teach what responsibilities people have. We are all responsible for advocating human rights to ensure their universal recognition. A Human Rights Committee aims to address one of the principle objectives of the Peace Corps’ mission, namely, to promote world peace. Human rights will continue to play a critical role in the development of individuals and communities. In the field, volunteers undoubtedly witness the urgency of the situation: a more purposeful course of action is clearly required. The Peace Corps must play an active role in the advancement of human rights. Every issue we face on the ground continually stems from a human rights violation. Without focusing on root causes we will always play a secondary role in development. We need to break this counterproductive cycle. This is not a way to play a constructive role in assisting nations with their development.

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PEACEWORKS | SPRING ‘16


I don’t imagine that countries everywhere will suddenly respect the rights of their people, or that the Peace Corps and/or a Human Rights Committee are the full answer. What I have sought–and continue to seek–is a consciousness on the part of all peoples and nations that their integration into the developed world cannot progress without the respect for human rights. It would be naive to think a Human Rights Committee will provide an easy path to the respect for human rights. Some people do not want to see change. Politics are ongoing and unyielding. People in the Peace Corps community and elsewhere have a genuine concern that the establishment of a Human Rights Committee will obstruct diplomatic relations. The pursuit to address human right issues does present challenges, but these can and must be managed. My own instinct is to maintain Peace Corps’ credibility and bilateral relations with foreign governments. I am acutely aware of the importance of this. At the same time, we must make clear that our approach to development will be different. Human rights must be at the heart of our strategies. I’m proud of our agency’s contribution to the development of nations, but a real commitment to development remains elusive. There is a fundamental problem in which we perceive our responsibilities. Human rights matters continue to be treated as distant concerns. By establishing the People’s Advocate Council, a volunteer-based organization dedicated to raising awareness about human rights through the implementation of community development projects, I hoped to transition the aspirations of my host-country nationals into a powerful movement of human rights awareness. As a result, this could help set a consensus of what a Human Rights Committee would look like.

The Peace Corps will have to adapt a much broader view of human rights if it is to successfully address the challenges the world faces today. I have expressed this view in the past, and it leaves me with what will become my greatest challenge as a volunteer: creating an understanding of the necessity to incorporate human rights into the Peace Corps Act.

Many people believe that the absence of violence brings the presence of peace. Oppression and marginalization are not as loud or as visible, but they are just as devastating to the development of an individual. I have a heavy weight on my mind and tears in my eyes when I think about what some people are going through. As volunteers, we all have the responsibility to help those whose rights are violated. We must do what we can to empower those who are committed to responsibly pursuing change. I am challenging the agency to realize its full potential. If the Peace Corps Act renews itself for an era of empowered people, Peace Corps can aspire to make a far greater impact in the lives of those who need it most. Peace Corps can truly enter a new period of prosperity. As I write these thoughts one year into my service, I remain optimistic about the changes underway. I seek to link my grand aspirations for our agency to something more real and concrete. The choice between incorporating human rights into the Peace Corps Act or not is no longer an option. We must be ambitious enough to pursue change and wise enough to adopt it. Without a Human Rights Committee, the U.S. Peace Corps doesn’t have the necessary means to carry out its mission. We need to go beyond the traditional concepts of volunteer work. Peace Corps, I believe, needs to stand strong for the rights of people. I urge Peace Corps to take a courageous step. Will it adopt such provisions? Perhaps we should vote, a human right within itself and something Peace Corps’ founder, President John F. Kennedy, lived, fought and died to promote. A Peace Corps that adopts strong human rights provisions and re-emphasizes its mission to world peace will earn its place in the 21st century.

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Photo by Matt Grady

SPRING 2016

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PEACEWORKS

SPRING 2016

PeaceWorks Spring 2016  

Peace Corps Morocco Volunteer publication of essays, poetry and photos

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